Review: iPhone 6 Plus

by Brad Nelson9/8/17

I think Apple is soon coming out with the iPhone 8, or at least a revision of the 7. But given that my last cell phone was a cheap Boost flip-phone, consider this a cutting-edge review. I mean, other than reading your thoughts, what more could they pack into one of these phones in one revision?

I purchased the iPhone 6 Plus (which arrived yesterday so I’m fully qualified to talk about it) from Consumer Cellular. A couple people I know praised this service, in general. One friend noted that the only thing you need to watch out for is to make sure they put you on a good carrier. Apparently they put him on one that had more limited coverage than he needed. But he got it switched no problem and noted that the customer service was good, of the variety where everything was, “Yes, sir.” And they spoke English.

The website is easy to browse. There’s no contract. You just go month to month and can stop at any time. (Can cell phone zombies ever stop? That is a deep, existential question.) I got a fairly basic plan ($20 per month) that offered 1500 minutes of mindless chattering and added to that ($5 per month) a data plan of 2000 useless and annoying texts with 200 MB of porn (err….data).

So for $25.00 a month plus all the taxes (and I’ll let you know what that is when I get my first bill), you’ve got a phone. I suspect most of my use of it will be over wifi so it’s unlikely I’ll hit the 200MB data limit. And as much as I might sometimes write here at StubbornThings, I’d have to really rack my brain to find 2000 useless and trivial things a month to shout out to my friends. Still, never underestimate the power of time-wasting. I could find that I soon exceed that text limit.

They had the iPhone 6 Plus offered for $250, so I went with that. (I just went to the site and they are at the moment out of stock on that particular phone.) They have plenty of Android phones as well. But I already have an Android tablet and I wanted to try Apple’s iOS.

Many of the reviews I’ve read of the iPhone 6 Plus were negative in terms of the size. I mean, goodness, from reading the reviews you’d think the thing was the size of a surfboard. Actually, I wish it was a little bigger. They call this size a “phablet” — the melding of phone and tablet — but if you have eyes over 40 and actually want to use the phone for something useful, the bigger the better in terms of the screen.

It weighs in at about 6 ounces. But I’ve snapped a couple pictures with this and turned out well. This phone can likely take the place of my old phone, my Nikon D3300 for hiking, a pedometer, and a stopwatch, although I’m still fiddling with trying to find a good app. What I’ve noticed about the apps, in general, is that, although the iOS itself is fairly minimalistic, the apps are bloatware all the way. Or perhaps I should call them “suckware.” Many of these apps are built not to fulfill a succinct and efficient function but to suck you into social networks where, basically, you’re giving free advertising for the app in the guise of “social networking.” It’s really annoying.

I just want a stop/start/pause time app, with basic pedometer functions (time elapsed, steps taken, distance, elevation, etc). An app called “Runtastic” does most of this okay. I deleted about 10 other apps last night after given them a look and after discovering that they were suckware and/or bloatware, the basic functions hidden under layers and layers of garbage I didn’t need or want.

But I digress. This-here review is supposed to be about the phone. By all reports, battery life is pretty good with the iPhone 6 Plus. The screen is hi-res and very nice. Under a magnifying glass, you can barely see the pixels. The operating system (and I’m long experienced with Apple software and operating systems) is what I’d call “Hidden OS.” I think these iOS’s may have been specifically built not for function, per se, but for the obsessive-compulsives out there, and there must be plenty of them. The point of the interface seems to be to induce as many swipes as you can, if only to try to find out where things are.

And not that this isn’t an efficient way to present information on a small screen. It can be. But the general schtick of the phone is that most of what you need is hidden, every app works a little different, so you’re swiping left, right, top, down to figure out or find a feature. It’s a little bit like playing a maze game. Turn left. Turn right. Turn again. Where the hell am I now? And because it all sort of looks alike in the maze, you lose track of where you are, of what swipes reveal more info and which swipes don’t.

Still, with time, this will make more sense to me as habits form. Compared to Android, in general, I think the Apple interface is more refined although general navigating (such as between apps) makes much more sense in Android. The general paradigm of the iPhone is somewhat smudged.

But these are quibbles in a $250 product that acts as a phone, a GPS, a music player, a camera, and an AI assistant (Siri). Let’s test out Siri right now: “Hey, Siri. Take me to StubbornThings.org.” Well….it worked last night. It took me right to the page via the Safari browser. Now it hears it as “Stubbornthings.ord.” Ord? Even so, it does then offer a link to the site that you can click on.

Let’s try again: “Hey, Siri. Is Donald Trump making America great again?” Well, Siri equivocated and simply offered a link to donaldtrump.com. But I half expected a dancing clown with orange hair or something, given this phone is from a libtard company.

Why the new phone, you may ask? You’d think joining the 21st century was reason enough. The truth is that I accidentally put the old Boost flip-phone through the washing machine cycle. Actually, I fiddled with it some more last night and got it to boot up and thus was able to copy over a few of my phone numbers. But the thing had become so unreliable (turning itself off sometimes or rebooting for no good reason) that it needed to be replaced anyway.

I put a screen protector on the front and that seems to be working well. It’s not interfering with the touch screen. I’ve got a Moleskin folio-style case coming. I figured that was better than just sliding the bare phone into a pocket or backpack.

I’ll post further thoughts, experiments, annoyances, and praises in the comments section as I fiddle and time-waste with this very cool device.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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27 Responses to Review: iPhone 6 Plus

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Well, after one week with the iPhone 6 Plus, I haven’t found it yet. I was expecting some kind of psychedelic time portal to open up and send me on some type of iMystery Tour. I had supposed going into this venture that if you stared at the iPhone’s screen long enough, or randomly pushed and swiped buttons in the correct combination, something amazing would happen.

    I mean, there has to be a reason other than looking up NFL scores that someone swerved into my lane the other day on a two-lane highway. Thankfully, he (or she…I was too busy doing defensive driving to look) swerved back. But I was in pure avoidance mode, slowing down and steering toward the shoulder. It wasn’t clear if this guy was drunk, having a sudden heart attack, or what.

    It’s certainly possible that he had seen the Magical Multiverse of rainbow colors on his phone and was mesmerized by the transcendent beauty. But after a week with my iPhone, I’ve neither experienced that randomly nor found an app for that. And I still suppose that it can’t just be looking up the latest NFL scores that has people risking their lives — and mine — on the highway.

    I’ll keep looking. It’s only been a week. Maybe I’ll try a quadruple-tap on the Home button and see what that does.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Didn’t they just release the iPhone X? I keep hearing about it. Of course, it costs about a thousand dollars, so I don’t anyone who will be getting it anytime soon. We have a Tracphone for most of our phone use, and that’s basically all we use it for.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Tracfones look like a very good deal.

      Given the technology they’re sticking inside these phones, it’s probably amazing that the price is only $1000.00. The benefit, of course, is in trickle-down technology. The Early Adopters pay for a lot of the R&D that eventually allows mere mortals to buy a stupendous piece of technology for relatively next to nothing.

      I don’t see anything on those new phones that I would have to have even if I had money burning a hole in my pocket. Wireless charging seems like a good idea. Apparently the new phones have a better camera. And the iPhone X has a new whiz-bang screen technology this is supposedly better. But I’m sure I can live without emojis that respond to my own expression.

      The Apple Watches, however, have apparently had some significant upgrades, including the ability make and receive calls, send texts, etc. Basically this is what Dick Tracey dreamed of.

      I can definitely see the utility of being able to carry all this technology and connectivity on your wrist. The price is still up there. But a new iPhone would give me really no new functionality. But I’d love to wear one of these when out hiking.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Timothy, I just ran across this article that gets to the heart of these iPhone upgrades. It’s all about selfies: The iPhone X is designed for a generation of selfie takers

      Now, shall we sneer and turn up our nose at that? Well…yes. It seems pretty stupid to me. But, self-absorption is what’s selling these days.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ve never taken a selfie, and don’t plan to start doing so. Of course, I prefer to look in mirrors as little as possible.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I should hand out photographic assignments to those willing. Here are some categories:

          1) Black and white
          2) texture
          3) form
          4) Macro
          5) Nature
          6) Unusual
          7) Creative

          Have at it, Timothy. Choose a category. I used to love just finding great textures or forms in nature.

          • Gibblet says:

            Thinking back on my photography days (way back when we used that stuff called Film, and we didn’t see how our pictures turned out until the film was “developed”); anyway…I know I have a contribution for almost every category! I would guess that most of my shots fell under the designations of Texture or Nature. There is a particular photo of a chicken that would qualify as Unusual. Under the Creative category would be a multi-page birthday card brought forth from my basement darkroom for my Dad when he was about 45 years old. He still has it, and he is 81.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Well, if anyone out there, including yourself, wants to tackle the challenge of photography, I say lets do it. One can learn a lot by concentrating on some of the details, of seeing scenes through a fresh set of eyes.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I have a lot of photos somewhere in my house (and a few that a friend found and brought over), but none by me. I’ve never had a camera or anything else that took photos. And these days, physical limitations basically keep me indoors anyway.

              • Gibblet says:

                Brad, your sunflower and the photo you captured of it (at A Room Outside) are amazing!

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Thanks, Gibblet.

              • Gibblet says:

                “Well, if anyone out there, including yourself, wants to tackle the challenge of photography, I say lets do it. ”

                I still have my Canon AE-1 (High School Graduation gift from my parents), with several lenses and various paraphernalia that I purchased by selling photos (such as the one you have tacked to the doorframe at your shop). I suppose I could find a digital camera body that is compatible with them.

                When film was the common method used to record a photograph, I found myself living through the camera lense, trying to imagine the best way to catch an image. Composition, F-stop, shutter speed, type of film, time of day, tri-pod or hand-held, etc all needed to be considered. The result of all the effort was not known until the pictures came back from the lab a few days later. I decided, eventually, to live life “in real time” without lugging a camera around.

                It may be time to enter the digital age….

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It may be time to enter the digital age….

    It is, Gibblet. I have many fond memories of the film age. But the instant feedback of digital isn’t primarily about instant gratification. It’s about being able to make corrections must faster and trying various angles, depth of field, etc.

    And you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good digital camera. I would simply recommend one that allows you to set shutter priority, aperture priority, and allows you to see focus easily (and change it manually as well if need be). That last item I view as paramount. A lot of the point-and-shoot cameras do a fine job. But the automated focus can drive you batty. You must be able to control that precisely if need be.

    My Nikon D3300 (a low-end Nikon) has the ability to manually focus. More important, it has a very good and precise focussing system that has internal sensor that I can use for “point” focussing. So I don’t have to depend on aging eyes to get a sharp focus, plus I can control what is being focused on.

    For casual shots, sporting events, parties, etc., the automatic and programmed features of these cameras really then come into other own. You’re more likely to get better (and more) shots because you don’t have to fiddle with settings. The internal programming on these is very very sophisticated these day.

    But you have to turn that stuff off when slowing down to capture individual shots that you’re putting some thought into. Even so, the automatic metering and assisted focusing are worth their weight in gold…or fixer solution.

    How hilarious that Apple’s new $1000 phone is oriented toward selfies. What could me more brainless and stupid than focusing on shooting your own face? Everyone has a view of things. Their photography (if they care to develop it beyond point-and-shoot) can be a very personal expression. Far more personal than idiotic selfies.

    The thing to do is focus on the basics. Consider composition. Most people just put the main subject right in the center. But most pleasing compositions have the main subject off-center, usually balanced with other elements in the frame.

    When I was younger I read through much of the Time-Life series of books on photography. That was a good start. And somewhere between getting stuck in book-learning and the mindlessness of point-and-shoot there is a happy medium. We can bring some thought and technique to our photography without getting too bogged down in the details.

    Digital cameras have freed us from a lot of the technical details. We can now spend more time on composition.

    I ran into a fellow yesterday who had a friend whose family was best-buds with the Ansel Adams clan. That’s a guy who surely put a lot of thought into composition (and then sweated the details in the darkroom…oh, how the man would have loved Photoshop).

    What we should probably do is just pick a subject and the have people submit photos. It needn’t be grandiose. We could all take shots of a shoe, for instance. Nothing more. Just see what you can make of it. But we’d need at least five participants to make it worthwhile. I think we have at least two now.

    • Gibblet says:

      ” I think we have at least two now.”

      I just need to know where to mail the photos.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Click that blue “Submit an Article” box on the right sidebar. That should do. Thanks. Also, I need some advice on pruning small maples. They are growing well. Do I cut off the long branches? If so, by how much and when?

        • Gibblet says:

          For ornamental maples, if you want bushy trees just pretend you are a deer and nip off the ends of the branches (whenever you wander through the yard) – as far back as you want it to make new branches. If you want to shape the tree, cut unwanted branches off at the trunk. This is a very simplistic explanation, because pruning is not my expertise.

          If it’s a big leaf maple, trim the trunk really close to the ground, drill a hole in it, and fill the hole with roundup. You shouldn’t have to prune it again.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Because Apple is a bazillion dollar company, I’m no longer the critic I once was. It’s not so much that I see things differently (once the clarion call of Apple), it’s that you can’t help but be bludgeoned into submission by their success.

    Still, I’d like to take a double-barrel shotgun and put iTunes out of its misery.

    I was trying to load a ringtone onto my phone that I had created. I had my iPhone plugged in and iTunes open as an intermediary. (Actually, I consider it more like your mother-in-law sitting at the foot of the bed on your wedding night.) I have the whole transfer method set to “manual” instead of automatic synch.

    But every time I tried to drag the ringtone to the “Tone” window of the iPhone’s window inside of iTunes, it kept bouncing off. I figured I had the ringtone format wrong. But, no, I downloaded a ringtone from the internet just to test. It didn’t want to copy onto the phone either.

    By chance I tried something I found on the internet. I added the ringtone to iTunes itself (not the iPhone pane…err, pain…of iTunes, but the general pane). It played the ringtone which told me that at least iTunes recognized it. I couldn’t, of course, find the damn ringtone in the huge list of music already there. Dragging something into iTunes is like dropping your car keys in the ocean. You know it’s there, but good luck finding it.

    I was eventually able to find it but that still offered no way to actually get it to the phone. So I hit the little phone icon near the top left of iTunes which brings up some other settings. Under “summary” there is a specific entry for “Tones” along with Music, Movies, TV Shows, etc. So I select the “Tones” item. It then offers a checkbox that says “Sync Tones.” Okay, I thought. I’ll try that. If the iTunes program sees that it has a tone, perhaps it will sync it to the phone. By god, I hadn’t been able to find any other way to do it.

    I click the check box and it says something like, “Are you sure you want to possibly erase all your stuff on the iPhone?” Well, this is the very specific “Tones” section of the phone. There is a separate checkbox for Music, TV shows, etc., in their respective areas. So I click “okay” and, sure enough, within a few seconds the tone was available on my iPhone.

    And, of course, it erased all of my music. That’s not that big of a deal to replace eight or nine albums I had there. Not a big deal at all. But what if I had a more extensive collection? Good god, iTunes is such a peace of crap.

    Apple’s stock is down perhaps because of their quite underwhelming (and over-priced) new phones. Take one look at a Samsung and, first of all, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it from an iPhone. The exteriors are very similar. I think the prestige factor has gone out of the iPhone. And having now seen iOS 11 (and played in 10 for a couple weeks), I see nothing about the software that wows me compared to Android.

    A report I read this morning said there are no long lines around the typical Apple Stores. No one camping out to get their hand on the iPhone 8. And this isn’t all because of iTunes. But you have to wonder.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    Now, that’s what I call a user-hostile interface. I hope none of the ones I programmed worked that badly, but then we were doing industrial automation. But we still needed to be extremely reliable. A one-in-a-thousand-times error would likely come up several times a day, so we needed to be better than that. Evidently we were.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      All software users must learn some conventions. “Intuitive” generally means the convention made some sort of sense in the overall context of other conventions. But you still need to learn.

      I’m still working with the iPhone but I pretty much already tink the interface is a failure. The phone works, for sure. The functions work, for sure. But I’m constantly fighting this thing. With a truly elegantly designed interface, once you learn the conventions, you don’t have to fight it.

      But “swiping” down/right/up/left to get at stuff is hit-and-miss. And the general interface seems designed for those with attention deficit disorders. There are some nicely-designed apps out there (such as eBay’s) and I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, generally speaking, the method of using an iPhone is greasing your finger (so that you don’t get finger-burn) and swiping, poking, pushing, and otherwise prodding the phone to find out where its features are hidden.

      There are some shared interface convention of the iOS, for sure. But for the most part it’s ever app for itself. Every app has a completely different way of doing things. Even if two apps are well done, because they do their preferences different, for example, or put the “back” at the top rather than the bottom (or vice versa), you play this constant hunt-and-peck game.

      I’m not saying the Android software (that I have on my tablet) is world-beating. But the bottom line is, it’s not worse and in many ways is better. And you don’t pay a premium for it (which is not to say that Samsung’s phones are particularly cheap, but you can pick up a good tablet for under $150.00).

      My dislike for iTunes is widely shared. It originally was a piece of music software (SoundJam) that Apple purchased years ago and then re-invented into iTunes. It’s really a shit piece of music software to begin with (although extremely elegant, well-made, and useful when it was SoundJam). I just don’t like its conventions or paradigm. But onto the top of it they’ve added a Music Store and, of course, fashioned it as the main conduit for transferring stuff onto your phone (at least from your desktop computer).

      iTunes is famous for just freezing and crashing. I drag a couple albums to upload it to my phone and it sometimes freezes. It’s done that a half dozen times now since I’ve been using it to load music onto the phone. And sometimes it just does weird things. It will load things onto the phone but also sometimes start playing it at the same time on your desktop. WTF? Why?

      And on and on with this piece-of-crap software.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ve never used Apple, relying instead on MicroSoft Windows. I will add that I have frequently cursed out everyone who has ever worked at MicroSoft in any capacity. But they seem to be better than iTunes.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          It took me two hours of trial-and-error, web searching, etc., but I finally found out how to safely make and add custom ringtones to the phone. And there’s no way around using iTunes which is why it took so long. This should be a simple function but they haven’t made it so.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m trying out Google Photos on the iPhone. It gives you unlimited storage. I’m going to see how its sharing feature does by hopefully providing a link to one of the photos in Google Photo’s “cloud” storage.

    You don’t need a phone. You can get a Google account and then use their desktop software to upload to their cloud storage (that is, to Google Photo). (Some details of how it works explained here.) I haven’t tried the desktop software yet. But I did, from within their browser app, successfully and easily upload a couple photos from my iMac. The desktop app would be handy if you have a lot of photos to store or want to keep certain folders on your desktop computer automatically synced and backed up to Google Photos. But I like some control because otherwise it’s too easy to have 100 gigabytes of photos vomited somewhere tying up your computer (and creating a mess somewhere) before you can turn it off…if you can turn it off.

    One reason any Mac user might prefer Google Photo is because it circumvents the horribly unusable process of iTunes and whatever helper app you have set to handle photos. (I have it set to Image Viewer which does work okay for SD card transfer from my Nikon camera.) As experience has shown, it is very very easy to accidentally delete your photos using Apple software. iTunes is a piece of junk that should be exterminated tomorrow, if not yesterday.

    Once your photo is uploaded to Google Photo, you can easily post links to your photos. Let me know if anyone wants help with experimenting with this.

    There’s a restriction on size for photos and videos. But as the restrictions are larger than my iPhone camera can shoot (top size for unlimited free photo storage is 16 megapixels), that’s not a problem. When uploading photos you can choose between high quality (with unlimited storage) or anything you want at original quality but, by default, you then have about 5 gigs of free storage space to use up.

    The option for high quality unlimited storage says that it will downsize (if necessary) and compress the photos (always?) to save space. Using the ProCamera app in place of the default Camera app that comes on the iPhone, I shot a photo in tiff at full resolution of 2448px x 3264px. The file size on the camera is 10.9 MB LZW. I wanted to see by using “high quality unlimited” if Google Photos would automatically compress it, perhaps by turning it into a jpg. After refreshing the web page, the photo showed up in Google Photos. It was still at 2248 x 3264 as a tiff image. But the image size was listed online as 10.4 mb.

    When I downloaded this image from Google Photo, it listed it as the 10.9MB again in the Finder. I compared it in Photoshop to the original tiff from the camera and there was absolutely no difference. So it seems that the restriction is not file size for photos but mere horizontal-times-vertical pixel dimensions. In this case, 16 megapixels (4000px x 4000px or some combination thereof). for purposes of my camera on the iPhone 6 Plus (and the rather limited 16GB built-in storage) I should be able to snap away, have everything uploaded to Google Photos automatically when connected to wifi (sure as hell better not do it on cellular data…I’m pretty sure I have it off), and then clear the photos off my camera and get that space back. Obviously the iPhone’s built-in Photos app is not going to see all those photos you have stored on Google Photo but the iPhone Google Photo app on your phone will and it seems to do so just fine with a few nice photo editing features (destructive) to boot.

    For videos, anything higher than 1080p will be sized down to high-definition 1080p.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Is there no end to the various apps which people will come up with for the I-Phone?
    Here is a demonstration by Jon Herington, Steely Dan’s present lead guitarist, showing an app for guitar practice. The app enables the player to achieve the various sounds he is looking for without all the equipment normally required.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4D2IVZlwz0

    What next?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One of the things I’ve learned, Mr. Kung, is that the processor power in these top-of-the-line phones rivals, and even exceeds, what is available on the desktop. Apple now designs and manufacturers its own processors for its phones. This has apparently led to the processors being highly optimized with the hardware and all resulting in extreme performance….the kind of performance that doesn’t get even remotely tapped by stupid “emoji” applications.

      But this amplifier app (and hardware) really shows you the possibilities. The iRig hardware would appear to be a $74.00 device. I’m assuming that little $74.00 device is taking the place of some much larger and more expensive hardware, although as a non-musician, I have no idea if this is for just playing around or has the sound quality for recording and public performance.

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The link below is to an article warning us of the dangers posed by continual use of smart phones.

    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/smartphone-addiction-creates-imbalance-in-brain-300558945.html

    Frankly, this is what the owners of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, etc, want, a brain-dead population addicted to inane content and products which destroy human-to-human intercourse. I don’t need friends, I have my iPhone.

    Control the tool, control the mind.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Right now, Mr. Kung, my smart phone is hooked by a mini-plug to RCA connector to my rather nice stereo system. Playing now is one of Sinatra’s Christmas albums. I’m in no danger of a brain imbalance, I can assure you.

      It’s not *that* one is using a smart phone. It’s what one is using it for, or what one is excluding from one’s life by spending so much damn time staring at that little screen.

      In defense of young people, I wouldn’t want to interact with my peers either. What a brainless bunch we have raised via the public school system, MTV (or its equivalent today), and video games. One may be escaping again into the poison that caused it but, Toto, this isn’t Kansas anymore anyway.

      They could, of course, come to StubbornThings and learn a useful thing or two. We do know have a phone-friendly front end now, although you can still use it the old way if one is adventurous enough to actually read the “Display Desktop site” on the screen.

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